Chinese food is, let’s be honest, the staple food of Dutch people too lazy to cook. There’s a massive amount of Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands: from takeaway to high-end eat-in-a-floating restaurant kind of place.
As a culturally aware expat living in the Netherlands, you must have heard native Chinese complain about the Chinese food one can eat here. Ever wonder why they’re being so critical?
Most so-called Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands that do delivery are not proper Chinese food, but something of a hybrid between Indonesian cuisine and Southern Chinese cuisine. 🍛
Hence, you will see restaurants offering this kind of “Invented in the Netherlands” Chinese food with the apt descriptor: Chinees-Indisch.
Here are some features of this new breed of comfort food that Dutch people love so much!
When getting Chinese food in the Netherlands, expect names you can’t pronounce
The names of the dish are transcribed into the Latin alphabet, meaning that even Chinese people wouldn’t understand at first glance.
Despite this, Chinese restaurants are going strong in the Netherlands. “Foo Yung Hai”, “Tjap Tjoy”, “Tau Foe”, “Tjap Ha”, “Koe Yuk” — these are just some words that almost every properly fed Dutch kid knows.
Luckily, restaurant owners are usually kind enough to put the Dutch — and sometimes even English — descriptions of what the dishes are under the unfamiliar names.
Enjoy meat or fish — and often both!
Europeans, especially foodies, often complain about how meat and fish should not be mixed in the same meal, let alone in the same dish.
Dutch-Chinese restaurant menus may have different sections for meat and fish, but don’t be surprised if you find big chunks of beef in your oyster sauce with your squid dish or pieces of shrimps in your stir-fry pork. 🍲
You know the best (worst if you have allergies) part? This isn’t always written on the menu, because, just like the saying on your fortune cookie, they’ll tell you that the surprise is always positive.
Expect an avalanche of food when you get Dutch-Chinese food in the Netherlands
Some of us may have this experience: no matter how many times you have ordered takeaway, it never ceases to amaze you how much food you are given.
Sambal: you’re going to get it whether you want it or not
I’ve mentioned that Chinees-Indisch food consists of a lot of Indonesian and Southern Chinese cuisine. Especially Southern Chinese cuisine because most of the Chinese restaurant owners (or their forefathers) are Cantonese speakers from the South of China.
In Southern cuisine, spicy food is almost non-existent, because it is simply way too hot to eat spicy food when the temperature is hanging around the thirties most part of the year. ☀️
Of course, this would not apply to people living in the Netherlands where summer days’ temperatures are rarely over twenty degrees, or my Dutch-Indonesian friends, who apparently carry mini-bottles of Sambal in their bags for on-the-go.
Congratulations! The Chinese food you eat in the Netherlands can’t be found in China!
Given the prevalence of Chinees-Indisch food here, you might think that you would find this everywhere back in China.
But, you would also be very proud to know that you won’t find it anywhere else in the world. (Okay, maybe in Chinatown in Indonesia, or Indo-town, if it exists, in China).
Dutch-Chinese food apparently fits into every occasion. Wait, really?
I love Chinese food, but I wouldn’t want to eat it all the time. Let’s say you are invited to a movie night or birthday party or, even Christmas at a Dutch household. You will inevitably run into the situation where your Dutch friends are pouring boxes of Chinees-Indisch takeaway onto their dinner plates.
And best yet, they announce that (surprise!) dessert is a going to be sweet rice pudding ordered from a Dutch bakery. (Well, rice pudding is actually Dutch.) 🍮
You can’t blame your Dutch friends. After all, ordering Chinees-Indisch food is just one of the most convenient and cost-efficient meals of all.
It is the kind of food you won’t mind presenting to your visitors — unlike delivery pizzas that remind everyone of all-nighters in college or shoarma that brings up memories of partying till 5 am and being as hungry as a cow.
At least it fills the stomach without, arguably, making you too bloated unlike like the all-occasion Dutch borrel food!
Have you had Dutch-Chinese food yet? What do you think of Chinese food in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2019, and was fully updated in April 2022 for your reading pleasure.